Guest Author Interview: Susan Lyons!

January 20, 2009

susanlyonsSusan Lyons grew up in Victoria, British Columbia and now lives in Vancouver, where many of her stories are set. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance for Kensington Aphrodisia. She has published a four book series called the Awesome Foursome series. Book one is called Champagne Rules, book two is called Hot In Here, book three is called Touch Me, and book four is called She’s On Top. She has also published two novellas in the anthologies, The Firefighter and Unwrap Me. To PURCHASE any of her books just click on one of the book titles and it will take you right to that specific books purchasing place. You can also read more about Susan and her books on her website by clicking here or on her name above.

Now please help me give a warm welcome to Kensington Aphrodisia Author, Susan Lyons!


(photo above is Susan’s fourth book in the Awesome Foursome series, She’s On Top)

Dani: Thank you so much for being here, Susan!


Susan: I’m delighted to be invited, Dani, and congratulations on your new blog. Love the title. I’m a book addict too. I don’t have a blog of my own (too busy writing, plus I’m just not interesting enough to find something new to say every day <g>), so I really appreciate the opportunity to guest blog and connect with readers.


Dani: Thanks! I love the title too. First, would you please tell us a little about yourself?


Susan: You mean aside from being addicted to books? Well, I guess other than books and nature, and an occasional man <g>, I never had a passion in my life until I began to write. I was one of those drifter types that parents despair of. I got a degree in psychology, studied anthropology, got a degree in law, studied counselling psychology, worked at various jobs. I enjoyed everything, but not enough to stick with it. I was a legal editor for a while, and that introduced me to the publishing business. Then . . . well I’ll carry on with that story in my answer to your next question.


Dani: Where did you get the “itch” to write?


Susan: I enjoyed writing as a kid and a teen, then put it aside (except for all those university papers!). One year, a friend gave me Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and told me I was a writer. Surprise, surprise, he was right. When I read that book, I truly felt the itch. Then I took a night school course based on Goldberg’s book, and was well and truly hooked. (That’s two addictions if you’re counting: reading and writing. And that’s it. Yes, I enjoy wine and chocolate but I can do without them. Honestly. Well, maybe. LOL.)


Dani: How long have you been writing?


Susan: This may sound strange, but I didn’t keep track. Early on, I decided I was in it for the long haul and I wasn’t going to count years or manuscripts before I got published, I was just going to persist. I had luck fairly early on in selling short stories (e.g., to Woman’s World magazine), but it was about ten years before I sold my first book.


Dani: Could you tell us about your Awesome Foursome series?


Susan: Love to. I started out writing a book about “sensible Suzanne” who discovers her sexy side with a man who is her opposite in many ways. When developing a heroine, a writer has to consider all aspects of her life, such as her friendships. Because I love groups of four girlfriends (Sex and the City, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, plus I have a few of those groups in my own life), I decided Suzanne would be part of a group that calls themselves “the Awesome Foursome.” They’re in their 20s and have the idea that they can set rules to govern their relationships with guys – basically, rules to have sex by. So, each girl ended up with her own book, her own rules, and her own very sexy romance (and yes, they’re romances, with happy endings). And of course, each girl found out that the best part of having rules is getting to break them!


The books are: Champagne Rules (Suzanne’s book; the “champagne rules” are that her long-distance relationship is to be fizzy and fun, not serious or mundane), Hot in Here (Jenny’s book; her “fantasy rules” are that she and her sexy firefighter will act out each other’s sexual fantasies), Touch Me (Ann’s book; her rule is that she and her Greek god lover will take “turns on top” – i.e., in control of the sex), and She’s on Top (Rina’s book; her “lights off” rule is that she and her hot Italian lover will only have sex in the dark).


My stories are light contemporary romance, very sexy, one man and one woman, no BDSM. I like characters with issues and a character arc, so each Foursome book deals with an issue that women can identify with (e.g., body image, parental expectations, balancing career and personal life, discovering your sexuality).


By the way, I know readers are interested in how story ideas originated, so I have Writing Process notes for each book on my website. Also excerpts, review quotes, a monthly contest, a monthly e-newsletter, articles, and other fun stuff.


Dani: All of your covers are super yummy! Could you tell us who designed them?


Susan: The wonderful Kristine Mills-Noble at Kensington, using stock photos. I’m glad you think they’re yummy. She’s done a great job of branding the Aphrodisia line – the books look wonderful on the shelves. And in case you’re wondering, I get no voice in the covers.


Dani: Out of all the books you’ve written which was the most challenging and why?


Susan: I think the one I’m working on right now, that’s due February 1. Due to an unexpected novella contract (nope, I sure wasn’t going to say no to a contract!), I ended up with only three months to write this book. If I’d already had the characters and story fairly clear in my mind, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I’d been really busy with a previous book, then the novella, so it’s been a bit tough.


Dani: Where do you get your ideas for your books?


Susan: I have absolutely no idea <g>. From here, there, and everywhere. They just pop into my head, and I write them down because I have a terrible memory. Then I mull them over and see what they grow into, and often brainstorm them with my critique group or other friends.


Dani: Are any of your characters based on real people?


Susan: Not specifically, but they’re definitely based on real personality traits, issues, and dreams. I want my characters to ring true for me and for my readers. A writing book I find particularly useful is The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes (by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders).


Dani: What are you currently working on?


Susan: It’s the second book in a “Wild Ride” series for Aphrodisia. The series is a sexy “plains, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship,” about three older sisters coming home to their baby sister’s wedding, and finding sex – and love – along the journey. This is the “trains” book, which is currently untitled because my editor doesn’t like anything I’ve come up with yet. LOL. (If anyone has a suggestion for a sexy title with some kind of train resonance, do please post it!)


This one is due February 1, and then I’m immediately into my first book for Berkley. Sex on the Beach will be three intertwined novellas about couples who attend an exotic wedding in Belize.


Dani: What’s been the best experience in your writing career?


Susan: There isn’t a single one. All the firsts are particularly wonderful. The first sale. The first cover. The first author copies arriving in the mail. And then, seeing my book on a store shelf for the first time and realizing that my characters are out in the world where readers can read their stories. Getting my first good review. Winning my first contest as a published author. And, right now, being a Reviewers Choice Nominee for best erotic romance at RT BOOKreviews for the first time!


Dani: What’s been the worst experience in your writing career?


Susan: There was about a year between my first five sales and my next sale. It was scary. But I knew that a writing career has highs and lows, and you need to ride out the lows. Since that time, I’ve made another five sales (novels and novellas, both to Kensington and Berkley) plus sold three Spice Briefs (short erotic stories e-published by Harlequin).


Dani: Since you’re an author, I assume you’re an avid reader as well. What books do you enjoy reading? Who are you favorite authors? What books are on your keeper shelf?


Susan: Yes, I’m beyond avid to truly addicted. I’m not big on paranormal, historical, or inspirational, though I do read a few of each. I love contemporary romance, women’s fiction, romantic suspense, and some mysteries. My keeper authors include Barbara Samuel/O’Neal, Luanne Rice, Susan Wiggs, Kristin Hannah, and Dick Francis. My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird.


Dani: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time (besides writing and reading of course)?

Susan: You mean there’s more to life than that? Well, I try to stay fit, love getting out for long walks (and Vancouver, BC is a fantastic place for doing that), do some boating in the summer (did I mention, the Pacific Northwest is a great place to live!), dabble in nature photography (you can see some of my photos on my website), and love getting together with friends over long dinners. I’m also quite involved in two local Chapters of Romance Writers of America, where, among other things, I coordinate Romance Writing 101 Roundtables to assist new authors (incidentally, the notes from those sessions, plus other articles on writing, can be found on the Articles page of my website).

Thanks again, Susan for being here today!
Okay Everyone! Susan has agreed to stop in today to answer questions and comments so ask away or just give a little wave and say Hi! 

Also, Susan is GIVING AWAY one of her books (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter!!!


   Dani ~ aka The Romance Book Addict





  1. Susan,

    Thank-you for answering questions for us.

    Do you ever have days where you just don’t feel like writing? How do you get yourself out of it?

  2. Hi Dani and Susan! I’m a newbie author up here in Vancouver, and have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know Ms. Lyons over the past few months at our RWA Chapter meetings. She is a dedicated, hardworking member, always ready with a helping hand (or email to a certain downtrodden newbie author). So thanks, Susan, for all the effort you put in, and I wish you all the luck in the world with your writing career. I love that you set the books in Vancouver! Kudos to you. Have a great day!
    Kari Walker (AKA Kaylea Cross)

  3. Susan! Thank you! Great blog, Dani!
    I have a few questions:
    I was wondering how much marketing is the writer responsible for?
    You said it took 10 years to sell your first book. Is that having writing being a second job, or full time?
    Do you have a say in your covers?
    How many titles that are currently published were your own and how many were changed?
    Finish this sentence:
    Writing is to me, like __________ is to ____________
    Thanks so much!

  4. Oh yes, Jenn! And I can procrastinate like crazy, rather than write. Having an actual contract deadline really helps because then I work backwards and set goals – i.e., I target that I need to be at a certain place in the book by a certain time. If I fall behind, I know I’m in trouble and so I’m motivated to scramble to catch up. Right now I have a February 1 deadline and I’m on the second to last editing pass (the final one being a read-aloud which I try to do in 2-3 days so I keep the whole book fresh in my mind). Anyhow, I need to have this editing pass finished by Sunday and I’m currently at page 125 of approx 300 pages so that’s 175 pages to edit in 6 days – i.e., at least 30 pages a day.

    (As you may have gathered, I am NOT a person who thrives on last-minute panic. LOL. I need to feel that things are under control.)

    When I don’t have a contract deadline, it’s a lot harder to stay efficient, so I try to set deadlines for myself.

    Another thing I do is remind myself that I’m trying to make a living at this business, and if I don’t treat it as seriously as any other job, then that’s not going to happen. And I look at people going off to their office jobs in their office clothes and feel very lucky that I’m no longer one of them, so that helps keep me at the keyboard.

    And then again, sometimes the problem is a form of writer’s block. I have an article on my website with tips for dealing with that. It’s titled “Writer’s Block” and can be found here:

  5. Hi Kari/Kaylea. Thanks so much for dropping by, and for the kind comments.

    I figure, we all have to help each other out in this business. And that’s one of the wonderful things about the romance writing community. In general, the authors are so mutually supportive.

    By the way, if any readers happen to be in the Vancouver, BC, area on February 11, Kari/Kaylea will be one of the speakers at a panel discussion at our library, an event that I’m coordinating. Other speakers are Lee McKenzie and Kate Austin.

  6. I will admit to not having read any of your books. I’m seeing this is a trend for me lately. The Awesome Foursome books sound very good. I can’t wait to check them out. Hey a whole series that I can get and read one after the other. YAY.

  7. Hi Susan!

    Just wanted to pop over and say hi and tell you I can’t wait for more of your books!!

    And thank you for introducing me to another reader blog!!

  8. Hi Cee – here are answers for you.

    “I was wondering how much marketing is the writer responsible for?”

    It depends on the publisher and on whether the author is a big name. For the “stars,” the publisher will do ads, buy display space in stores, etc. etc. For newbies like me, I’m pretty much responsible for doing all my own advertising. It’s an individual choice for each author and there are no statistics on what methods work. For me, I maintain a website that’s updated monthly, have a monthly e-newsletter (you can subscribe on my website), run a monthly contest, purchase ads in magazines like RT BOOKreviews and Romance Writers Report, get bookmarks and excerpts made and send them to reader groups, stores, and conferences, present workshops at conferences, do occasional signings, and guest blog. That’s all I have the time and money for.

    “You said it took 10 years to sell your first book. Is that having writing being a second job, or full time?”

    I was doing contract work for a day job and it varied between zero hours a week to 50 hours a week. So, writing was part time, but a bigger part of my life than if I’d had a day job with regular hours.

    “Do you have a say in your covers?”

    Nope. Some publishers ask authors for input (e.g., have them fill out an “art facts sheet” with details about the characters’ appearance, suggested scenes for covers, etc.), but Kensington doesn’t do that for the Aphrodisia line.

    “How many titles that are currently published were your own and how many were changed?”

    “Champagne Rules” is mine. I saw the Awesome Foursome series as a “rules to have sex by” series, so would have liked the titles to reflect each girl’s rules. So, I’d have titled the 2nd book “Fantasy Rules” but Kensington called it “Hot in Here.” My title for the 3rd book was “Turns on Top” but it was changed to “Touch Me” (which I actually like better, since he’s a masseur). I called the 4th one “Lights Off” and the publisher called it “She’s on Top.”

    In my next series (a sexy planes, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship series about sisters), I called the planes book “Fly Me” and Kensington changed it to “Sex Drive.” I’m finishing the trains one now and it’s currently untitled. (Any ideas?)

    I’ve done better with my novellas. “Hot Down Under” in The Firefighter, “Unwrap Me” in Unwrap Me, and “Too Hot to Handle” in Men on Fire (coming in November) are all mine. (Well, actually, I lied. “Unwrap Me” was suggested by fellow Aphrodisia author Bonnie Edwards.)

    “Finish this sentence:
    Writing is to me, like __________ is to ____________”

    Okay, that’s way too complicated for me! My brain doesn’t work that way. If I come up with a brilliant answer, I’ll post it later.

  9. Brandy, that’s great. I hope you enjoy the books.

  10. How anyone can do what Susan does and still look refreshed at our RWA chapter meetings is beyond me. What she didn’t mention is … she sometimes knits at meetings. Probably the only time in her busy creative life when she can sit down and be quiet.

    Now for my question. What keeps your creative ideas fresh after your successes in writing sexy books? Do you plot first? How many ways can a man and woman make love without it becoming cliche and boring?

  11. I just wanted to pop in and say Hi to everyone and thanks for stopping in today to welcome Susan! 🙂

  12. Hi Laura. Thanks for dropping by, and I’m glad to have introduced you to another blog. (Just don’t let it keep you away from reading books, okay???)

  13. Aw, Anita, you’re so sweet.

    Oh yes, knitting! Do you know, I have a basket of knitting in the living room that I haven’t touched in a couple of months. I like knitting when I’m watching TV, but recently I’ve been signing promo stuff during my TV time. Rumor has it that readers prefer autographs on bookmarks, so I keep busy signing. I’ve just packaged up some stuff to send off to Celebrate Romance in Portland, OR (is anyone going?), so now I must pull out that knitting again.

    Now, to your question. I love the phrasing of “how many ways can a man and woman make love without it becoming cliche and boring”. Well, I guess just about as many ways in fiction as in real life. LOL. I do admit that it’s a challenge finding fresh ways to write love scenes. Often I’ll try to find a slightly different sexual/romantic “hook” for each couple – like, in the Awesome Foursome books, each couple had “rules to have sex by”. For example, in the 1st book, Suzanne and Jaxon were adventurous and almost always had sex outside, often with some possibility of discovery (they also had a long-distance relationship, so there was phone and cyber sex).

    In the Wild Ride series I’m writing now, the mode of travel provides the sexual opportunities. (The “planes” book was a real challenge! I had to overnight them in Honolulu to give them a hotel room and a beach to expand their sexual horizons!)

    The other thing that’s key for me, when it comes to love scenes, conflict, plot – everything involved in creativity – is knowing the personalities of my heroine and hero. I’m a very character-driven writer. Everything comes out of personality.

    In real life, if you took John and Jane and gave them a sentence to start a conversation, their chat would go in a very different direction than if you took Ann and Adam and gave them that same sentence to start with. Same thing if John and Jane became lovers. They’d interact intimately in a very different way than Ann and Adam. (As with we writers. As you well know, Anita, if someone gave the two of us the same story concept for a book, we’d write very different ones.)

    You asked if I plot. Not very much. I have to provide some kind of synopsis in a proposal, so I kind of have to think the story through. But at that stage, I don’t know the characters very well. Before I start to write a book, I do try to get a decent handle on the characters and have the idea for at least the first couple of scenes. Then when I’ve written that much, hopefully I’m developing an idea of what happens next. Of course, characters do surprise me quite often, and that’s part of the fun of it!

  14. Hi Susan,
    I seem to be following you around a lot (not a stalker, but a fan), but then that’s because you never stay in just one place at least on the internet.

    Question: Have you done a lot of traveling or are you planning on doing more and do you plan on using those places as settings for your books? I love Vancouver and its home to me, but I don’t leave home much so I enjoy getting to leave home through my imagination in books.

  15. Hi Sue! I never for one moment thought you were a stalker. LOL.

    A lot of my travel these days seems to be to writing conferences at which I get to see the glamorous interiors of a whole bunch of look-alike hotels.

    Other than that — I set the first scene in Champagne Rules on Crete, a place I love. I have an unpublished book set in Greece and sure would like to sell it one day.

    “Hot Down Under” in The Firefighter is set in Australia, a country I visited in 2005 and just loved. I’d gladly set another story there, and may well do so.

    I’ve been to Belize, and that’s the setting for “Sex on the Beach,” coming in Jan 2010 from Berkley Heat.

    I usually take one real trip (i.e., not a writing conference) every second year. I’ve been to Costa Rica and Grand Bahama and next on the list is looking like either Bali or Corfu.

    Foreign settings are fun, but I also really like Canadian settings. When I started writing, I was told that it was virtually impossible to sell a novel with a Canadian setting to a US publisher. The “conventional wisdom” was that US readers didn’t like them. Well, I figured, I’m Canadian and proud of it (LOL) and I was going to damn well write Canadian settings and see what happened. And guess what? Kensington didn’t even question the setting. I haven’t heard any complaints from readers either, and I’ve heard some nice comments about the Vancouver setting.

    A German romance magazine asked me to do an article on Vancouver, and I did a kind of Awesome Foursome’s tour of the city (it’s on my website on the Articles page). Apparently they got lots of positive feedback about people wanting to visit Vancouver, so I figure I’m doing my bit for Tourism Vancouver!

  16. Just wanted to let people know, I’m heading off to a critique group meeting. I’ll be back in about 3 hours to see if there are any more questions.

    Dani’s going to announce the book winner either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

  17. I had Bubba Dog (if you don’t know who that is read about him on one of my previous posts or on the “Bubba Dog’s Book Reviews” page) pick a name out of a hat and the winner of one of Susan’s books (their choice) is….

    *drum roll*


    Congrats Laura! Please email Susan at susan(at)susanlyons(dot)ca (fill in the at with @ and the dot with . ) with your name, mailing address, and choice of which book you’d like. Thanks everyone for stopping by! Please visit again soon!

  18. I’m back and my critique group meeting was great. We did some brainstorming on one of my upcoming projects. (And did it over great food and a very nice merlot.) What fun!

    Yay for Bubba Dog, and congrats to Laura J. Send me your info, and I’ll send you your book.

    Dani, thanks so much for inviting me to blog today. I’ve had a wonderful time. People asked such terrific questions.

    I’ll pop back in the morning to see if any new comments/questions have come in, and Laura, I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

  19. Thanks Dani and Susan and especially Bubba!! I’ll check out Susan’s site and see what I don’t have and email you this morning!

    You all made my whole day!

  20. That’s great to here, Laura.

  21. LOL. Or, great to “hear”. Am I awake yet? Obviously not!

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